Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Noun-Noun Compounds

Here’s my latest mini-project.

Noun-noun compounds are a relatively rare syntactic occurrence where two nouns are paired together to blend or attribute separate concepts.  Some examples include “island bungalow”, “race car”, and “stock market”.  Interested yet?  When you think about it, it may seem like the first noun is actually an adjective, but it’s really not.  Technically adjectives need a form different from their noun counterparts.  Nouns and verbs in English often share form: “run for the door” and “I’ll go for a run”.  Adjectives, however, have a distinct form--forms that are often generalised and over-extended to create fake words.  Cramming our examples into an adjective-noun structure we would get “island-esque bungalow”, “race-ish car”, and “stocky market”.  None of these really sound all that great, and it’s not just the made-up-ness of the words.  These examples are overly constrained by the interface between lexical and syntactic boundaries.  An adjective is not what we want, despite it be syntactically a little more common.  So!  People make up noun-noun compounds instead of breaking lexical rules.  I think Ray Jackendoff takes this as evidence that lexical constraints apply in parallel to syntactic constraints, not in sequence.

Linguistically: We can explode the syntax of noun-noun compounds as such: [n1 + n2] => “the [n1] type of [n2]” or inverted: “an [n2] of the [n1] type”.  Poetically, these options might be neat...but that’s about it.  They are a more explicit, boring form of concept combination.  In fact, its so explicit, that some of the metaphorical shading present in the concise, noun-noun form, is lost.  Replacing the fluidity of metaphor we get boring old category assumptions, such as Q: what type of bungalow? A: the island type.  This supposes there are a discrete set types-of-bungalows one of which is island.  Dumb!  Noun-nouns are better.

So, why do we care?  Psychologically, noun-noun compounds are interesting because they are a case of analogy and concept blending.  But beyond that, they are a wonderfully small and easy example of conceptual genesis.  Now there’s a buzz-word for ya.  But check it out.  New concepts are created every day.  Often words are used to characterize, describe, or understand concepts.  But sometimes words enable the creation of new concepts.  Terms, different from concepts, are particularly interesting when they are new and isolated.  A good example is the term “moral hazard” in recent financial and political talk.  The term refers to a situation where someone behaves differently than they would have had they been aware of the full extent of risk.  So we have this noun-noun compound used to characterise a circumstance that is recently relevant to the financial and political arenas.  The term is introduced without much explanation, but it catches on regardless.  Metaphor aside, this is an example of conceptual genesis, enabled and largely inspired by the creative use of language.

What we want to do see what noun-noun compounds say about language and people.

Step 0) Make sure they’re interesting.  See above.
Step 1) Find them.  See below.
Step 2) Figure out what it means.  ...

Step 1:

Below is a script for finding noun-noun compounds in arbitrary text.  It uses TreeTagger (free but separate) to tag a text file with part-of-speech tags (Noun, verb, etc...).  And then it finds the compounds and their lemmas, collapses them into their frequency of occurrence and gives you a spreadsheet.

It needs a Unix environment and TreeTagger.  TreeTagger takes the majority of time, but run on 10,829,875 words it’s not bad:

real    3m32.609s
user    5m24.708s
sys     0m20.861s

Step 2:

Preliminarily: I’ve looked at the results from a corpus of financial texts and get this! 91 of the top 100 noun-noun compounds are distinctly financial in nature.  Compare this with the 45 / 100 for the top bare nouns.  This makes me think that noun-noun compounds might be even MORE interesting...

More later!

The Script: get_NNs.pl

#! /usr/bin/perl -W
use strict;
$| = 1; 

## A script to find noun-noun compounds in a text file.
## Uses TreeTagger to lemmatise and POS-tag the corpus.
## Then we count and sort the instances into a CSV.
##   A. Gerow, 2010-10-14: gerowa@tcd.ie

unless (-r $ARGV[0] && $ARGV[1] && -x $ARGV[2]) {
    print "Usage: ./get_NNs [input file] [output file] [path to tree-tagger command]\n";

if (-e "./temp") {
    print "Error: Please remove ./temp before running.\n\n";

sub INT_handler {
    unlink("./temp") if (-e "./temp");
    print "\nCaught SIG_INT, exiting\n\n";

$SIG{'INT'} = 'INT_handler';

my $INFILE  = $ARGV[0]; # input file
my $OUTFILE = $ARGV[1]; # output file
my $TT_PATH = $ARGV[2]; # path to language-specific tree-tagger binary

my $prev_type  = "";
my $prev_word  = "";
my $prev_lemma = "";
my @results;

# Words to exclude (added ad hoc.)
my @exclude = qw'zero one two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven twelve
                 the an a of per cent for in ? and his her has from its their to these 
                 this that were out were new after whose began before them last with
                 sent rose take first second third fourth fifth sixth seventh eighth
                 more garner over also formal into down up strong all hit far day week
                 year decade highest lowest sure hard other recent said our abouta abouthe

# First cat the corpus through tr to delete some characters before TreeTagger gets it.
print "Tagging...";
qx+cat $INFILE | tr -d '=\`"<>/@#?$%^&(){}[]' | $TT_PATH > ./temp 2> /dev/null +;
print "done\nSearching for noun-noun compounds...";

# For every word as tagged by TreeTagger:
open(IN, "<./temp");
while (<in>) {
    my ($word, $type, $lemma) = split(" ");

    # Lower-case, remove '?' and spaces.
    $word = lc($word);
    $word =~ s/\s*//g;    
    $type = substr($type, 0, 2); # Includes NNS, NNX, ..., NN*

    # Skip if 1) the word is in the exclude list
    #         2) the word is contracted 'is' (ie. 's)
    #         3) the word contains digits
    #         4) the word is shorter than 3 letters
    if (grep($_ eq lc($word), @exclude) || lc($word) eq "'s" ||
        lc($word) =~ m/[0-9]/g || length($word) < 3) {
        $prev_word = "";
        $prev_type = "";
        $prev_lemma = "";

    elsif ($type eq 'NN' && $type eq $prev_type) { 
        push(@results, "$prev_word,$prev_lemma,$word,$lemma");
    $prev_word = $word;
    $prev_type = $type;
    $prev_lemma = $lemma;
print "done\nWriting CSV...";

# Count and collapse like instances:
my %count;
map { $count{$_}++ } @results;

# Write to file and sort it, ascending by number of occurances:
open(OUT, ">temp");
map { print OUT "${count{$_}},$_\n"} keys(%count);
qx/echo 'count,word_1,lemma_1,word_2,lemma_2' > $OUTFILE/; # CSV header
qx/sort -n temp >> $OUTFILE && rm temp/; # UNIX numerical sort

print "done\n\n";

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Spike Activity

Right then.  Since I last spouted:

- Finished those pesky classes.  All wrapped up rather nicely.  This year I successfully tricked the philosophy guys into thinking I was a philosopher, the psychologists I was a psychologist, the linguists a linguist, and computer scientists are still unclear about how what I do has anything to do with computers.  I win.

- Worked through writing a respectable article which my supervisor and I are submitting to be published.  The process basically amounts to finding and jumping through various technical hoops.  More on this later.

- Was accepted to a couple PhD programmes and finally accepted an offer at Trinity College Dublin.  It’s renown for its humanities division, its progressive acceptance of women, and its deplorable exclusion of Catholics and, of course, its impeccable lawns.  I’ll be studying under these two jokers.  I plan on calling the second “Carl Stallman” (long hair + emacs obsession = rms).  The other has so-far eluded a nick-name, however, his demeanor is reminiscent of a certain loud-mouthed PLU faculty member...except the Trinity version's dress-code belies his capitalist sympathies...

- So.  Right now I’m finishing the minor thesis.  The idea: metaphors applied to common financial objects (stock, market, economy, etc...) will be of a few domains (spatial, physical, war, etc...).  But!  The linguistic instances of these metaphors will take a number of forms, many of which are antonymic (fall & rise, soar & plummet, rally & retreat, etc...)  My job is to compare the collocates (words that occur nearby) these various antonym pairs.  The hypothesis: those antonyms that are less agreed upon (experimentally based) will exemplify a more diverse set of collocates in the corpus even though they statistically occur most-often as describing the action of a small set of objects.  Got it?  This is important because 1) it reaffirms that metaphor is cognitive not linguistic but comes at this from the top-down as a corpus-based study, 2) it suggests that some objects make more metaphorical sense when used to describe either positive or negative events, but maybe not both, and 3) the method is an example of a corpus approach to cognitive-linguistics, and more specifically, metaphor.  Bing bang boom.  A+.

- Was lent a Roland electronic drum-set for a month.  Strong points include more-than-real rebound on the toms, a very sensitive snare complete with rim-shot, quiet, and lots of “styles” of drum-set (my favorite was named “power-house-fusion.” Hah!)  Weak points include a very soft hi-hat that offered nearly no rebound, and that its compact size would likely become a crutch, making it hard to go back to bigger set.  In the end it was an absolute joy to play for the first time in a year.  Thanks P.C..  Huzzah.

- Will be moving from the UCD campus to Renelagh (still in Dublin) -- living with architecture students.  Lord help me.

- Reading Nabakov.  Lovely.

- New bands include The Riot Before, The Flatliners, The Menzingers, Turin Brakes, Austin Lucas, and old motown stuff.  New albums include Against Me! - White Crosses, Murder by Death - Good Morning Magpie, and Gaslight Anthem - American Slang.  All well worth buying.

- Someone mistook me for a messenger.  Two Bicycle Points!  Two people asked me directions, questions I could answer.  Two Dublin Points!  And one person on the phone thought I was from Galway.  One Irish Point!

Points abound.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Network Model of Biological Evolution?

Finishing Tim Ingold's piece and the book Linked by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi in the same day was more circumstance than anything, but the overlap was unavoidable.  Barabasi, a Hungarian physicist at the University of Notre Dame, has been forging a new line of research known as Applied Network Theory.  Seminal work in the field includes The Strength of Weak Ties, The Small World Problem, and more recently on power-laws: Power laws, Pareto distributions and Zipf's law

Inspired partly by computer networks, applied network theory takes the basic data structure of a network of interconnected nodes and applies it as a model to various naturally occurring phenomenon.  Some particularly good examples revealed in Barabasi's book include social networks, cell-biology and genetics, international financial markets, and everyone's favorite network, the world wide web*.  Interesting properties, of varying degrees of complexity, fall out of simple network structure like "hubs" of proportionally large inter-connectivity, "islands" of relatively segregated sub-networks, and of course weak links such as those found abundantly in social networks.

The connection to Tim Ingold's call for a organism-centric biology is not hard to see.  Network theory offers a simple and scalable model for organism-culture interaction.  A directed graph (one in which nodes' connectivity distribution is said to follow a power-law) could explain mimetic / culturgen heritability and expansion.  Networks have been used to show how companies rise to monopolies, how youtube videos go viral, and why child-naming patterns exhibit momentum.  Networks offer what could prove to be an elegant reconciliation of implicate organismal traits and their relationship to culture.

*One emergent feature of directed networks are sub-structures referred to as "tubes" which are segments in which elongated, one-directional flow occurs.  Thus, U.S. Alaskan Senator from, Ted Stevens, wasn't completely full of crap when he so elequently characterised the internet as a series of tubes.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Simulating the Brain

In reading von Uexkull's piece on umwelten, it got me thinking about the ramifications of a popular strategy in brain simulation: simulate simpler animals' brains first, then we can move up to humans.  Here is a small list of some popular (if not successful) attempts at brain simulation.

The Blue Brain Project has focused on simulating a neocortical column of a rat.  Bi-products of the project, however, include a simulation framework and a number of noteworthy genetic algorithms for large-scale simulation.  A number of popular articles have been written on the project.

On a smaller scale we have NEURON project from Yale, which seeks to simulate single brain neurons for use in larger network-based simulations.

On a bigger scale we have a DARPA funded group at IBM who recently claimed the "largest" cortical simulation to-date.

IBM's success on the company's Blue-architecture super-computers has spawned an even larger project: SyNAPSE.  SyNAPSE is more in line with the chip manufacturer's agenda in that the goal is to instantiate brain-like redundancy and generality in a marketable hardware platform.

In reading about some of these projects and thinking of our friend von Uexkull, I'm wondering at what level of complexity umwelten may emerge from any kind of simulation.  Clearly brains aren't the whole story in our engagement with the word.  Might simulations of cortical tissue shed light on the organisation of our larger cognitive capacities?  What really intrigues me is the idea that our more general abilities (like visual, tactile, and lingual systems) may have co-evolved with our exceptionally generalised brain.  Will simulations, once computationally feasible, shed light on cognition?  Or, will embodiment provide the next hurdle for technologists to jump?  Might simulations replace imaging in neuroscience?  And the bigger question: once we understand the brain, what's left?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Embodying Cognition

Last week the podcast All in the Mind had a good talk with neuroscientist John Donoghue from Brown University about interfacing brains with machines.  Donoghue founded a enterprising upstart, Cyberkinetics, which cleverly makes a product called the BrainGate, which is gizmo that plugs a brain into a computer.  Think it's crazy?  So do people at Gizmag and Wired.
Currently the product has patients moving a cursor around a large screen, the concept carries some intriguing baggage.  Specifically, I'm thinking of those pesky zombies.  Here's a thought experiment:

Imagine a completely paralysed person of good mental health.  We connect her up to one of Donoghue's BrainGate's and now she's moving a cursor around.  Now imagine we afford her the ability of "clicking".  At this point she's able to use a standard computer, with an on-screen keyboard, given it's positioned in her gaze.  Now imagine we connect a sophisticated robot to this computer giving our permanently supine patient input, by way of LCD, and ability to control the robot.  Predictability a bit slower than most, our patient now has the ability to move about the world and receive visual input from this interaction.  Is it too naive to say we have succesfully embodied (some of) her cognitive processes?  I think it is...at least at this point.  But imagine we give her a suit that can stimulate her skin as the robot's skin is stimulated.  Likewise, we reproduce all the other senses with technology.  Now imagine we've perfected the BrainGate and deprecated the silly cursor-interface in lieu of a faster, fully integrated neural interactive mode.  Lastly, imagine this apparatus is so absolutely integral that were the robot to experience what it is programmed to know as death, the interface would heartlessly recreate the experience for our hapless patient.

Sad really.

Could we have said the robot was conscious?  No way.  Unless!  Conscious is as conscious does, a credo the robot lawfully enforces, however arbitrarily.  Might this be "our" relationship to our "mind?"  And might this relationship be of some evolutionary worth?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Kurzweil's folly

What follows is a cleaned-up, link-infused conversation I recently had with a biologist friend and practicing Luddite:

Adam: I saw Molly the other day, not quite Chomsky, but close.
me: Yeah?
Adam: Yeah, now I'm here in Parkland eating some oatmeal squares.
me: I bought your book the other day.  Not quite Chomsky, but close.
Adam: oh really?  So you're the one.
me: Yeah, it's in the mail...so don't ask any questions, but I'm sure it's a regular tour-de-force.
Adam: Yeah dude.
me: Hey, I found the anti-Adam.
Adam: You found what?
me: Ray Kurzweil.
Adam: Too late!!!  Already knew about the Great D******bag and his coming singularity.
me: So you're in, yeah?  We take off next week.
Adam: Oh yeah, transhumanism and the whole schebang!
me: A friend over here gave me one of his books.
Adam: What a gomer, huh?
me: My friend's Canadian...but Ray, yeah: pipe-dreams in print.
Adam: It's a good idea to study the rate of technological change but he gets some things so wrong.
me: I agree with his accelerating returns from technology...but I'm pretty sure he looses all ground with his blinding optimism.
Adam: Yeah, but not just that.  When he plotted human achievement in the line of cosmic and biological evolution my head exploded.  He made a really basic mistake evolution is not exponential and never will be.
me: Well, he slips in memetic evolution as the exponential part.  But I think he had it a bit backwards.
Adam: You know the Fermi paradox?  Between the number of planets and galaxies and time, if a technological singularity was inevitable it should have already happened.  But of course…it hasn't...
me: Is that the one in reaction to Carl Sagan's argument for ET life?
Adam: I think so.  It's not a direct refutation of Kurzweil but it's suggestive.
me: Kurzy also misses the growing and absolutely irrefutable tension between our biology and our technology.  I thought this was his grossest error.  I mean, people in "developing nations" are unbelievably less likely to have mental illness, or stress related problem, and even drug addiction.  Sure they might be starving and we can't seem to find an alternative to join-us-or-die capitalism, but there's an undeniable link between pace and complexity (which Kurzy exalts) and Huge Societal Problems.
Adam: Yep.  We're still a bunch of apes.
me: I want to be bonobo.
Adam: I've been reading a lot of junk on language and how it turned up in the first place.  At Kurzweil's pace of evolution, we're due-up for another ground-breaking advancement like language.
me: If you're interested in language stuff, check out Steven Pinker.  Brilliant stuff.  He's one of the few than run a psychology tack without sacrificing the linguistics.
Adam: Oh yes, I've watched Pinker.
me: He's cool-looking too, right?
Adam: I've got this penchant for stalking cool people on the internet and pacing my room listening to their talks.
me: Oh! We're studying all about qualia in a philosophy class.  Crock of shit...basically...
Adam: Yeah, qualia is bullshit.
Adam: I listen to Pinker, Dennett, Chomsky, Jackendoff and the rest.
me: Yeah, Dennett has a pretty home-run argument against qualia.
Adam: Good, it deserves it.  You know, you might like my little book.
me: I'm excited to get it.
Adam: It doesn't directly apply to consciousness but it toys with at least one implication.
me: If I cite it...I'll let you know.
Adam: Here's a line from it: "I am increasingly convinced that the real division in the intellectual arena is not between selfish ideologies but between two opposite poles separated by their stance on information flow. One pole claims the human minds as an autonomous source of information and the other sees it as a recipient."
me: Interesting.  The "current state" of cognitive science is increasingly "postcognitivist", which basically breaks cognition from the traditional view of purpose-built sub-systems -- the view that we're computers that process input and provide output -- and forms a new one where we're walking accidents of thought.  Hah!
Adam: I could see that.  Is there any space for computation in this view?  Is computation just another subsystem?
me: Well, that might be good traditionalist defense.  The new guard kind of hold that when we say, see a baseball coming towards us, we aren't computing anything.  Instead, we have an experience, informed by our history of sensorimotor experience that tells us, rather simply, to deal with the situation.  (Catch it or get out of the way.)  The can of worms is really in embedded cognition which is the view that we use our world and our bodies as our cognitive system...not just our brains. So then we've this recurrent problem of interaction-as-cognition.  It gets a bit hairy, but really interesting.  And it really draws a useful line in the sand between cognitive science and psychology.  (Which in my opinion should admit that it's a clinical discipline and hand the theoretical torch off to cognitive and neuroscience.)
Adam: So wait, if the "conscious" aspect of consciousness is epiphenomenol, how could evolution have shaped it, or is the point that it never has?
me: I suppose that's a really good question. But it's kinda like a lot of evolution: consciousness wasn't useful until it was accidentally made available by an organized brain.  Hofstadter has wonderfully human and respectfully emotive ways of putting this stuff.
Adam: Read this.  It's cool, though certainly might already know about it, but Doug's even got something to say about Kurzweil.
me: Cool, I will, but I got run to the store before it closes.
Adam: Good talking.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


As opposed to last semester, this semester involves only a minor amount of psychology, which is comparable only to The Bible in its classification as good news.

Post-Cognitivist Seminar:

Basically everything in cognitive science that the psychologists don't want to talk about.  Big themes include embodiment, joint action, affordance, subjective experience, enaction, ecological psychology, and blogs.  This one's lead by our trusty course director Fred.  I get the vague impression that most academics over 50 would scoff at the endeavor, while more of the ones under 40 might be in the "oh neat" group.  We impressionable students, however, have agreed on a collective "huh?"  Oh yeah, grades?  Nope.  If we blog we pass...not a joke.  I'll cross-post my musings here so expect some seriously smart stuff.

Connectionism and Dynamical Systems:

Also taught by Fred, but this time less out of left-field more on the math.  For those in the know, connectionism is the greater community of neural network models.  They can model tons of stuff, very well, very magically, very obtusely.  Some people have philosophical problems with the approach, but most of them don't know are stuck in the 50's.  Connectionist models are notably more neurally plausible than traditional, programmatic models, but very quickly leave the idea of a neuron behind.  Allegedly we needn't know how to progam...but I'm planning on changing that.  We're beginning using this software package: http://cogsci.ucd.ie/Connectionism10/bp.zip.  (Unzip and run the .jar.  If you can't do that, install java and try again.)  It was partly modified by Fred himself and, according to him, is one very few pedagogically useful connectionist simulators.  There's a web-applet version too, though Fred wasn't if it would work from off-campus.

Cognitive Modeling:

This is the more technical follow-up to first-semester's Cognitive Psychology, taught by my research advisor's old buddy, Fintan.  The big project is this: we're given a spreadsheet of data from an experiment and we need to come with a model that predicts the results.  Everyone gets the same data, so we get to critique eachother's models.  I plan on describing mine as "ground-breaking", "breath-taking", if not downright "awe-inspiring."

Philosophy of Mind:

I'm the only one in our class that's excited for this one.  It's taught by a few different professors in the giant philosophy department.  Topics including dualism, embodiment, science, souls, language, consciousness, minutia, and dementia.  The format: read, talk, read, talk, write.

For the curious: last semester went fine.  My GPA was .3 points higher than my graduating GPA for undergrad.  This means that I am 7.5% smarter than I used to be.  In a classic ecopsychological critique, however, it may mean that UCD is 7.5% dumber than PLU.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Introducing the Emerald Shadow

Here's my new bicycle:

Recall the bush bike's original form:

The whole process was longer than expected...mostly due to stripping and painting.  Some things to note:
- The chrome fork.  I couldn't use the stock fork with "industry standard" 700c wheels because even "extra long reach" caliper brakes wouldn't reach the rim.  This was a bummer because I spent upwards of two hours filing the axle eyelets to fit a modern axle.  Oh well.  The chrome one looks nice and was inexpensive.
- The chain.  Another unforeseen bummer.  The chain I ordered online wasn't long enough.  Yeesh.  And because my local bike shop only carries half-link chains I had to get one of those.  It's funny looking, but reportedly stronger.  We'll see.
- Only one brake, and no, it's not a fixed gear, just a single speed.  A rear brake won't work for the same reason the stock fork wouldn't work.  Now I've read, heard, and had explained to me by a physics professor, that the majority of braking is done by your front brakes.  So that's fine.  And I've never gone over the handle-bars either, which Lord Sheldon says rarely happens.  So I'm thinking we're ok.  We'll see.
- The brake lever.  It's one these cross-style "interrupters" which are great, small, torquefull, and versatile, but they don't give you the hood-of-the-brake riding position for drop handle-bars.  Thus, I'm reduced to the tight / upright or low / back-pain-inducing positions.  We'll see.
- The paint isn't quite as shiny or tough as I'd hoped.  Oh well.
- The frame provide less rake than I'm used to.  Means we're less stable, but "better" at cornering...as if that's ever a problem.  But it also means that the front wheel bumps my toes sometimes.  Oh well.

Overall, I'm very happy with it.  The gearing is a bit higher than my previous bike which means I work harder and go faster...which aligns perfectly with my life-theme...  It's wonderfully smooth, startlingly silent, and as comfortable as I'd expected.  For those interested, here's the inventory:

Frame: 1978 Raleigh Tourist (SL-1?), lugged steel
Fork: BBB chromed steel
Handle-bars: Nitto's smallest track drops
Wheels: Sun CR18 36-spoke
Hubs: Origin track flip-flops
Crank-set: Sugino 67.5m w/ 46-tooth chain-ring
Pedals: MKS urban track
Free-cog: Shimano 16-tooth
Brake Caliper: Cane Creek SCR-3
Brake Lever: Cane Creek Crosstop
Stem: BBB's cheap MTB version
"Seat": WTB speed
Seat-post: some BMX thing
Chain: BBB half-link BMX chain
"Tyres": 700x25 Continental Gatorskin Ultras

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How-to: Paint a Bike

First off: I have never painted a bike before.
Second off: I'm not restoring anything but function--I'm just painting it.

What you need:

A Bike: Namely a 78' Raleigh Tourist.
Paint stripper.  I'm using the not drip, gel stuff.  Allegedly easier, better, and smellier.
Filler primer: Spray on primer that claims to fill cracks.  My local bike-shop said this stuff is important and hard to screw up.
Primer: Sticks to the filler under-coat, and the paint over-coat.
Paint: I think automotive spray-paint is the way to go, but I've heard other hilarious ideas like "grill paint", and "aviation paint".  I'm going with a dark(er?) green.
Gloss coat: Actually important if you're worried about chips (and you should be) or water sticking to it (and you should be).  It'll look prettier, which isn't always good, but it's nonetheless important.
Sand-paper, wire-brush (big and small), and a paint brush.

1) Take off everything that can be taken off of the frame.  This includes the veritable bottom bracket and the infamous head-set, in addition to the brakes, stem, seat-post, "derailer", etc...

2) Strip that sucker.  I used some gel stuff and a paint brush.  It was messy and smelly, and took three tries to get 95% of the paint off.  One more try might have helped, but I wasn't really in the mood.

3) Filler primer: Now that you've stripped the dirt, rust, paint, and the inner lining of your lungs, you're ready to spray.  Just spray the filler-primer on like spray paint.  Once it's fully dried, sand it down with low-grit sand-paper.  Watch out, I realized after spraying this stuff, that the entire room get a bit of yellow dust on it, which was easily wiped up with a towel.

4) Primer.  Same idea, but you don't have to sand it down afterward.  I'm going for two coats.  Let them dry before applying subsequent coats.

5) Paint.  Same as primer, but this time be careful to be even.  I used just one coat, per the instructions on the paint can.

6) Gloss: One coat worked for me.  And like in all things: be liberal.  Interestingly, this dulled the paint a little bit.  Oh well.

7) Don't touch it, take it outside, or even assemble the bike much less ride it: you might scratch the paint.




Filler Primer:



Coated (complete):

As you can see, it turned out pretty well.  There are a few, unpictured, glitches like the the underneath the bottom bracket, and the underside of one of the seat stays.  But overall, I'm very happy.  Anyone really interested, I used Range Rover's "Highland Green."  It's darker than the pictures make it look, but nonetheless pretty.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Book Reviews

Sorry for the hiatus.  First it was classes, then exams, then not exams, then painting a bike (pictures soon), and now this: book reviews.

1) The Jungle, by Comrade Sinclair: 1.5 / 5

Ok, I abhorred Ayn Rand's Fountainhead because it just a giant capitalist bowling pin wielded to inflict the blunt force trauma of "objectivism."  Likewise, The Jungle was a socialist two-by-four inducing a particularly vegetarian head-wound.  What I liked was the sense that Sinclair was reporting on injustice, which is exactly what he was doing.  What I didn't like was that the character was lifeless, alone (not lonely), and blended in seamlessly with the unbelievable predictability of the repressed proletariat.  Protagonist Jurgis does nothing but suffer, which would be fine, were it not happening in a vacuum--and not a literary vacuum of oppression-by-Adam-Smith--just a vacuum of mediocre writing.  What gets me a plot-line soap-box is why in the world Jurgis didn't continue to be a hobo!  My guess is that Upton needed to present a valiant, duty-bound person before they become a socialist champion.  Cheap trick Sinclair, but I suppose about half us vegetarians owe it in part to you.

2) Consciousness Explained, by Daniel Dennett: 3.5 / 5

Despite the lie of a title, Dennett has a gift for academic synergy.  He begins by laying out a "heterophenomenological" framework of anti-cartesian cognitive introspection.  What does that mean?  Well, that's what the book is about.  The big deal: Cartesian duality (mind vs. body) is false.  Thus, the Cartesian theatre (the one in our head where we unconsciously direct what we become conscious of) is also false.  Instead, Dennett gives us his reputed theory of Multiple Drafts where our consciousness is our ability (or rather, our inability to refrain from) abstracting sensori-motor input into iterative categories which we simultaneously recall, update, and project onto our experienced lives.  What struck me interesting were the similarities between a) massively parallel connectionist architectures (neural networks), and b) Douglas Hofstadter's theory of Strange Loops.  Surprisingly, Dennett's model is neurally plausible (ie. it "maps" well to known functions of the brain.)  Also, it's surprisingly respectful of deep philosophical debates like subjective experience, other minds, and free will.  What's lacking, in the book at least, is an evolutionary picture.  I thought it deserved a couple chapters about how assuming purposeful design of the brain is what lead to the Cartesian problems in the first place.  Dennett, good friends with High Priest Dawkins, seems altogether shy about evolution's lack of intent, which potentially makes consciousness a side effect of otherwise naturally selected, useful brain-functions.  Ground rule double invoked for lack of trying...otherwise could have been a home-run.

3) Nocturnes, by Kazuo Ishiguro: 2.5 / 5

Ishiguro, author of Remains of the Day and one of my personal favorites, Never Let me Go, has a new book, Nocturnes.  It's a set of five, loosely interwoven short stories about musicians and sunset.  Wonderful prose.  Great scenery.  Plot-lines were dry and the characters were unfortunately boring.  A couple cheap tricks (like reconstructive surgery, fame, fortune, and communism) adorn the five stories, but they end were they start: nowhere interesting.  Ishiguro has what I've found to be an unrivaled style of clarity that let's his characters live in our minds, but Nocturnes doesn't live up to past efforts.  My prescription is for Ishi to stay far away from short-stories: the long ones let the characters be characters, the short ones just feel a little cheap.  Well worth the time, especially for fans of earlier work, but I got the feeling Kaz was fulfilling a contract more than writing a book.